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Beggars Opera - Act One CD (album) cover


Beggars Opera


Symphonic Prog

3.65 | 195 ratings

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Special Collaborator
Symphonic Prog Specialist
4 stars An underrated gem

Call it destiny, bad luck or whatever, BEGGARS OPERA is a band, formed in the precise moment, being that they still have a strong Psyche influence, very appropriate for 1970 but had also advanced the extra step towards Symphonic Prog, you can say they played the right music, in the right moment, with great skills, but never got the place in history of Prog they deserved.

"Act One" is a superb debut with reminiscences of THE NICE, but IMO with better vocals, and despite not having a guy like Keith Emerson, the sound of the organ is simply fantastic, but against the odds, they are practically unknown by younger Progressive Rock listeners.

The album opens with the frantic "Poet and Peasant" based in the homonymous Overture by Franz von Suppé, a well known musical peace played even in cartoons of that time. The track starts with a short intro and then directly pass to the central section with a tremendous bass and drums work, the keyboards by Alan Park still show that classic sound of the late 60's but also a Baroque touch more consistent with the 70's. The voice of Martin Griffiths is just perfect for the music. Radical changes, excellent instrumental breaks, keyboard solos, this song has absolutely everything.

In "Passacaglia" we're not talking about a new version of "Bach's" work of the same name, but something like a tribute to the great musician and in general reminiscent of Baroque music, even when much faster

It's impressive to listen the vocals in second plane, perfectly distorted to sound as a radio transmission, create a great effect with the organ as the lead instrument, again the bass - drums interplay between Erskine and Wilson is simply outstanding. Around the middle of the song an incredibly radical change transports us to USA scenario, with a heavy Rock that could had easily been played by GRAND FUNK RAILROAD, just to mutate again returning us to the XVIII Century with the amazing organ.

"Memory" is the shorter track of side "A" (LP format), shorter and much more violent than the two previous, now we're talking about pure rock with great keyboards, the use of Mellotron is not so obvious as in other bands but still evident enough, the instrumental sections change from frenetic to soft in a matter of seconds, maybe a couple of hints of "Witches Promises" by JETHRO TULL, but must be coincidence, because both songs were released with only some months of difference. Some people find this song weaker than the rest of the album, I find it different and a necessary change. Special mention to Ricky Gardiner, who plays a killer guitar.

"Raymond's Road" opens side "B" (of the old vinyl format), a track in the vein of "Rondo" by THE NICE, featuring sections of Bach's Toccata & Fugue·, "In the Hall of the Mountain King" from "Peer Gynt" by Grieg, William tell Overture by Rossini, of course Mozart's "Turkish March"", etc. Not original due to THE NICE previous song, but still very nice to listen this sort of classical collages. Again the drumming by Raymond Wilson is simply breathtaking, not sure if the name is a reference to his name.

The original version is closed by "Light Cavalry", another version of Von Suppé's musical piece, this time much closer to the original, but still with time enough to enjoy the audience with the interplay between Park's keyboard and Wilson drums with very good vocals. Radical changes, Psyche jamming sections, this track has everything, good closer

My CD version has two bonus tracks, the excellent "Sarabande" and "Think", but as always will limit my review to the original release, because that's the way the author made it to be listened.

Not a masterpiece, but close to the status, 4 solid stars.

Ivan_Melgar_M | 4/5 |


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